Children’s services rejig could send many voluntary groups to the wall

Small voluntary groups will go “belly up” as the reform of
children’s services gains pace, it is feared.

Helen Dent, chief executive of the Family Welfare Association,
predicted that the mainstreaming of Sure Start programmes, whereby
cash is channelled through councils instead of voluntary groups,
would ruin many small organisations that had received money for
preventive services.

Dent told Community Care LIVE delegates: “Our budgets are being
whittled away. I think we will end up with voluntary sector
organisations going bankrupt and belly up. It is a huge political
issue that everyone is brushing under the carpet.”

Government pressure to make 2.5 per cent cuts could force local
authorities to divert Sure Start cash, which is not ring-fenced, to
pay for statutory services instead.

She added that the sector was likely to end up tendering for
specialist services, which would be “a very, very backward

Dent was “sceptical” about the reorganisation of children’s
services, saying there would be tension between the different
philosophies of education and children’s social services.

Voluntary organisations had only been involved in education work on
a small scale. Relationships with health, especially for children
aged up to three, had been “vital” but she feared health would be
“let off the hook” in order to focus on issues such as

Caroline Abrahams, head of policy at charity NCH, said: “The
voluntary sector is going back to what it was before the Children’s
Fund and Sure Start, which is as a bit of a bolt-on.”

Anne Jackson, director of the Department for Education and Skills’
strategy, children, young people and families directorate, said:
“One of the things we are doing is making sure guidance to
children’s trusts is specific about how to involve – at least in
principle – the voluntary sector.”

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